Pair of Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball seniors developed well

AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Kenny Goins walked on at Michigan State, turning down scholarship offers from Mid-American Conference schools.
Matt McQuaid signed with the Spartans, changing his mind after committing to play for Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown at SMU.
For both players, and coach Tom Izzo, it worked out well.
The Big Ten champions are seeded second in the NCAA Tournament in part because both have gone from being role players to standouts.
“I don’t think a lot of people believed in me, even in my personal life, but that’s the reason I came here,” Goins said Monday. “I was pretty much betting on myself. I made it big, I guess. Hit the jackpot you could say.”
Goins and McQuaid may have to do a little more than usual Thursday against 15th-seeded Bradley and possibly beyond because junior forward Kyle Ahrens is not expected to play again this postseason. Goins, who primarily plays power forward, could be used at small forward to make up for the absence. Ahrens injured his left ankle during the Big Ten Tournament final against Michigan.
“It’s a very, very bad sprain,” Izzo said. “He’s come back from the dead a couple times, but I’m guessing that he’s done.”
Michigan State has been done in the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament in three straight years for the first time with its Hall of Fame coach, who has won a national championship in seven trips to the Final Four.
The Spartans closed the season with 10 wins in 11 games, leaning on Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston along with their two seniors that earned honorable mention recognition in the conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers dump Detorit Pistons 126-119 with Pistons’ Blake Griffin taking break

Associated Press
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers squeaked by without Kevin Love.
The Detroit Pistons, playing without Blake Griffin, weren’t as fortunate.
The Cavaliers made clutch shots down the stretch for a 126-119 win Monday night in a game that featured six ties and five lead changes in the fourth quarter.
Collin Sexton scored 27 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with just under two minutes to play, and the Cavs defeated a Pistons squad that is fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit coach Dwane Casey, whose team beat Toronto on Sunday, was unhappy following the game, especially with the fact that Cleveland shot 58 percent.
“I’m totally disappointed in myself and our team and everyone in our locker room,” he said. “Our defensive disposition was nil. Nil.”
The Pistons (36-34) are sixth in the East, a game ahead of Brooklyn and 2 1/2 in front of Miami, but their previous visit to Cleveland — when they routed the Cavaliers 129-93 on March 2 — might have played a role in this loss.
“I don’t think we came out with a healthy enough respect for our opponent — and we should have,” Casey said.
Love was out with a sore back for Cleveland after taking a hard fall in Saturday’s loss to Dallas, while Griffin sat out to rest for Detroit.
Andre Drummond nearly made up for Griffin’s absence with 21 points and 21 rebounds, but Detroit’s center was also displeased with the outcome.
“We tip-toed around with them the whole game, and they went out and took advantage of it,” he said.

Top squads in NCAA Tournament men’s basketball tough to beat

AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. — This year’s NCAA Tournament features a top tier of teams that are heavy Final Four favorites, starting with No. 1 overall seed Duke and star freshman Zion Williamson.
Figuring out how to stop them won’t be easy.
Gonzaga joined the Atlantic Coast Conference trio of Duke, Virginia and North Carolina atop the four regional brackets, followed Michigan State, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan as No. 2 seeds.
These eight teams have won 85 percent of their games this season. And nearly half of their games lost (18 of 40) have come against another team within this group of 1- and 2-seeds.
That makes for a tricky puzzle, though some clues may be in weaknesses that showed when these top-tier teams lost.
It starts with 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting, though the Blue Devils typically overcome both behind the brilliance of Williamson, fellow freshman RJ Barrett and a tough defense led by Tre Jones.
Duke shoots 30.2 percent on 3s, the worst mark of any tournament team and worst in program history. The struggles stood out in a loss to Syracuse (9 of 43 against the zone) and in losses to UNC (8 of 39 in the first, 8 of 32 in the second).
At the free throw line, 69 percent could be a problem for the Blue Devils in a close game.
Fans already know all about Virginia’s worst-case scenario thanks to No. 16 UMBC trouncing the overall No. 1 Cavaliers in last year’s first round.
This year’s team plays similarly with a style that can reduce its margin for error.
Virginia again has the tough defense and methodical tempo offense, a combination that tests the discipline and patience of its opponent. Behind Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter, the Cavaliers own their most efficient attack since coach Tony Bennett’s breakout season there in 2014.
If they struggle for stops and get behind, it can be difficult to reverse momentum with fewer possessions to work with thanks to their pace — illustrated in Friday’s loss to Florida State in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
The Tar Heels have three scorers capable of big games with Cameron Johnson, Coby White and Luke Maye. And they’re at their best when loose in transition or attacking the glass.
Things get tougher when the pace slows.
Despite its rebounding prowess, UNC lacks a true post scorer — a staple of Roy Williams’ best teams — and can struggle matching up with bigger teams. And its perimeter strength makes the team more dependent on the 3.
The Zags have KenPom’s most efficient offense (125.1 points per 100 possessions) and a solid frontcourt with Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and the return of Killian Tillie. Gonzaga is the only team to beat a fully-healthy Duke squad this year.
But the Zags struggled on the perimeter in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game against Saint Mary’s. Their guards couldn’t increase the tempo, so Gonzaga had to grind out halfcourt possessions and made just 2 of 17 3-pointers in the 60-47 loss.
Tennessee: Coach Rick Barnes has expressed concern about his team settling for 3-point shots instead of attacking the paint.
Michigan State: The Big Ten champions often struggle to keep possession. The Spartans rank 319th in the country in turnover margin (minus-2.6) and have averaged 15.8 turnovers in six losses.
Kentucky: Can Kentucky hit more 3s if needed and stop opponents from doing the same? John Calipari’s Wildcats made 199 3s — fewer than all but five power-conference teams — while attempting among the fewest in the country.
Michigan: While John Beilein’s Wolverines have one of the nation’s top defenses, they haven’t rebounded particularly well. Michigan has been outrebounded in five of its six losses by an average margin of more than nine boards per game.

Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis, center,looks to pass the ball against Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman, left, and Kenny Goins in the first half of the Big Ten Conference tournament finals on Sunday in Chicago. (AP photo)

Late rush lifts Michigan State Spartans past Michigan Wolverines for Big 10 men’s basketball title

AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had one simple question for his team. He got the answer he wanted, and the sixth-ranked Spartans picked up their sixth Big Ten Tournament championship.
Now, they’ll try to bring home the biggest prize of all.
Matt McQuaid scored a career-high 27 points, Cassius Winston converted the go-ahead layup in the closing minute, and the Spartans rallied to beat No. 10 Michigan 65-60 in the Big Ten final on Sunday.
Top-seeded Michigan State (28-6) scored the game’s final 10 points to capture its first championship since 2016. No other program has won the conference tournament as many times as Michigan State, and this one was particularly sweet.
After all, the Spartans prevented a championship three-peat by Michigan (28-6) and beat their rivals for the third time this season.
“I asked them all today, ‘What do you want to do?’” Izzo said. “Pregame meal, ‘What do you want to do? You want to play for the (NCAA) Tournament or you want to play the game?’ That sounds like a stupid question, but if you knew where my guys were at as far as physically, it was a good question to ask. Once they said ‘We want to play the game,’ I said, ‘You just gave me a license for 40 minutes of hell, so you better get going because I’m not letting up.’”
“They responded and I think they enjoyed it,” he continued. “So did I.”
McQuaid nailed a personal-best seven 3-pointers. Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year, had 14 points and 11 assists as Michigan State won for the 10th time in 11 games.
“It’s always big,” McQuaid said. “Michigan’s a really good team. Beating them three times … it’s hard to do.”
Both teams were awarded No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and will play Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. Michigan State faces Bradley in the East Region, while Michigan goes against Montana in the West. The Wolverines beat Montana last year on the way to the national championship game.
Ignas Brazdeikas led Michigan with 19 points. Jordan Poole scored 13. Jon Teske had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Zavier Simpson added 10 assists.
But the third-seeded Wolverines fell again to Michigan State after blowing their chance to win the league by losing to their rivals twice in the final four regular-season games.

Michigan State Spartans face Duke Blue Devils’ challenge in NCAA tournament East Regional

AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON — Zion’s path to the Final Four goes through the nation’s capital.
Zion Williamson and Duke are the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils sit atop the East Region, and their road to Minneapolis could include matchups with ACC rival Virginia Tech — which beat Duke without Zion — and Big Ten champion Michigan State.
But with Williamson and fellow freshman R.J. Barrett on their games, it’s worth wondering who will be able to keep up with the ACC Tournament champions.
Duke opens the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, South Carolina, against the 16th-seeded winner of the First Four game between North Carolina Central and North Dakota State.
SPARTANS’ PRIDE: Michigan State held off rival Michigan to win the Big Ten Tournament and rolls into a matchup with 15th-seeded Bradley unsure of Ahrens’ status. Guard Joshua Langford is already lost for the season, but the Spartans can still lean on Cassius Winston and strong rebounding. Michigan State has won 10 of its past 11 games and is one of the hottest teams in the country.
BUBBLE IN: Temple was squarely on the bubble after losing to Wichita State in its first American Athletic Conference Tournament game Friday. But Fran Dunphy’s Owls — four years after being the first team on the outside looking in — didn’t have their bubble burst by Saint Louis’ run or Oregon’s Pac-12 Tournament championship. They will face Belmont on Tuesday for the right to be the 11th seed in the East and face sixth-seeded Maryland.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski talks to Zion Williamson during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday. (AP photo)

Michigan Wolverines in tough West bracket in NCAA tournament

AP Basketball Writer
LAS VEGAS — Gonzaga had its 21-game winning streak end in the West Coast Conference tournament title game.
The loss to Saint Mary’s was not enough to make the NCAA Tournament selection committee move the top-ranked Bulldogs off the No. 1 line.
Gonzaga earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in seven years on Sunday, topping a difficult West Region that includes Michigan, Texas Tech, Florida State, Marquette, Buffalo, Nevada and Syracuse.
The lower seeds include Baylor, Murray State, Vermont, Northern Kentucky and Florida. Arizona State and St. John’s will play in the First Four on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. The West Region concludes March 28-30 in Anaheim, California.

TOUGH BRACKET: Teams in the West Region could make an argument they’re playing in the bracket’s toughest region.
Gonzaga may have more talent than the team that went to the national title game two years ago. Michigan opened its season with 17 straight wins after playing for a national championship last season and made it to the Big Ten title game.
Florida State is long, athletic and finished fourth in the ACC, arguably the nation’s toughest conference. Marquette and Murray State each have players who can carry a team deep into the bracket . Buffalo has a veteran team that knocked off Arizona in the NCAA Tournament last year and swept the Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Court: Middle finger protected

TAYLOR, Mich. (AP) — When it comes to the middle finger, police might need a thicker skin.
A federal appeals court says a Michigan woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was handed a speeding ticket after giving the finger to a suburban Detroit officer in 2017. The decision means a lawsuit by Debra Cruise-Gulyas can proceed.
In a 3-0 decision Wednesday, the court said Taylor Officer Matthew Minard “should have known better,” even if the driver was rude. Minard stopped Cruise-Gulyas and wrote her a ticket for a lesser violation. But when that stop was over, Cruise-Gulyas raised her middle finger.
Minard pulled her over again and changed the ticket to a more serious speeding offense. Cruise-Gulyas sued, saying her free-speech rights and her rights against unreasonable seizure were violated.

Tampa Bay Lightning rally from 3 goals down to defeat Detroit Red Wings 5-4

AP Sports Writer
DETROIT — Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning turned a three-goal deficit into a milestone night.
Stamkos tied Vincent Lecavalier for Tampa Bay’s career lead in goals, Nikita Kucherov scored twice in the third period and the Lightning rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 on Thursday. Tampa Bay equaled its franchise record of 54 wins, set last season.
The Red Wings led 3-0 in the second when Stamkos scored on the power play to start Tampa Bay’s comeback. His 383rd goal pulled him even with Lecavalier.
“It feels a lot better now than it did when it happened — to do it in a win,” Stamkos said. “It’s something you probably process a little later, but just a huge honor to be sharing that with Vinny right now. He was so instrumental to me in my career and what he meant to this organization.”
Stamkos made it 3-1, and the NHL-leading Lightning weren’t done. The league’s highest-scoring team added four goals in the third, with Kucherov and Tyler Johnson scoring 26 seconds apart to give Tampa Bay the lead with 11:10 remaining. Kucherov made it 5-3 with 3:22 left.
Brayden Point also scored for the Lightning, early in the third. Madison Bowey, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Michael Rasmussen scored for the Red Wings, who lost for the 12th time in 13 games.
“I thought it was a bit deceiving with a 3-0 lead. We had a 3-0 lead, which is great. You’re putting yourself in position to win. But it wasn’t like we were dominating the game,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “If anything, they started to carry the play at 2-0. Especially in the first I thought we got hemmed in our zone a bunch.”
Bowey opened the scoring in the first with a shot from just inside the blue line. It was only the second goal of the young defenseman’s career and his first since arriving last month in a trade with Washington.
The Lightning had plenty of time in the offensive zone in the first period, but the Red Wings were dangerous on the counter. Helm struck while Detroit was short-handed, breaking in on a 2-on-1 and beating goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for his 100th career goal.
Early in the second, Abdelkader slipped behind the Tampa Bay defense and scored to make it 3-0, but Stamkos answered with his 35th goal of the season, beating goalie Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot from the left circle to tie Lecavalier.

Detroit Red Wings re-sign top minor-league defenseman Brian Lashoff

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings have signed defenseman Brian Lashoff to a two-year contract extension.
Detroit made the move Wednesday, keeping a key player from the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. The 28-year-old Lashoff had 11 assists in 44 games for the Griffins this year.
Lashoff has two goals and 11 assists in 123 NHL games with the Red Wings. He had six points in 75 games during the 2013-14 season.

Detroit Pistons go stone cold during 3rd quarter in 108-74 loss at Miami

AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI — The outcome was in doubt at halftime.
It didn’t stay that way for long.
And thanks to a 21-0 run to open the second half, the Miami Heat now have a tiny bit of breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The biggest Heat run of the season led to the biggest Heat win of the season, a 108-74 romp past the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
“Just a professional win by us tonight,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “We played against a team that wasn’t making shots early, and we continued to keep going at them and continued to keep applying pressure.”
Justise Winslow scored 16 points for Miami, which had seven players in double figures. Dion Waiters scored 14, Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside each had 13 and Wade finished with 11 for Miami.
Miami’s starting five — Richardson, Winslow, Waiters, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk — played 12 minutes together. They shot 12 for 17, 4 for 4 from 3-point range and Miami outscored Detroit 36-13 in those 12 minutes.
“Our starting lineup has had some good starts and some play that’s been trending in the right direction,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But that was as inspiring as they’ve been.”
Blake Griffin scored 13 points for Detroit, which got 11 from Wayne Ellington. Detroit missed its first 11 shots of the third quarter, eight of them from 3-point range.
The Pistons have now dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 25 and 29 — and both were blowout losses, with this one on the heels of a 103-75 rout in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
“It’s about our mental fortitude and coming out and having a better mindset at the beginning of games, myself included,” Griffin said. “I’m not excluding myself from that at all. If we have any fight about us at all we’ll come out and rectify that.”
Miami (32-35) is still No. 8 in the East, now two games ahead of No. 9 Orlando and two games back of No. 7 Detroit.
Andre Drummond fouled out with 6:30 left and finished with five points and nine rebounds — snapping his run of 19 consecutive double-doubles, which left him tied with Bob Lanier for the Pistons’ all-time record streak in that department.
It wasn’t Drummond’s night.
It wasn’t the Pistons’ night in any way. They shot 36 percent, got outrebounded 51-36 and were 8 for 37 from 3-point range — 1 for 17 in the second half. It went down as Detroit’s second-worst loss of the season, topped only by a 37-pointer at Indiana on Dec. 28.
“For two games in a row now, we didn’t come out in playoff mode,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.

Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey talks with center Andre Drummond during the first half Wednesday in Miami. (AP photo)